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Football: Red Wing, Ellsworth ready for border battle

Red Wing tight end Zach Sachen reaches out for a catch during passing drill on Aug. 14 at Red Wing High School. The Wingers head into Wisconsin for its first game of the 2013 season at Ellsworth. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Ellsworth head football coach Clair Austin talks to his players during offensive drills on Aug. 9 in Ellsworth. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

In a border battle 40 years in the making, Red Wing and Ellsworth both come in with something to prove.

The Panthers, fresh off a 33-7 drubbing of Spooner on Friday, hope to prove that their new-look offense can show consistency after putting up 334 rushing yards against the Railers.

“We scored three out of the first four drives. … I don’t think you can ask for a better start,” said Ellsworth head coach Clair Austin. “We have a lot of depth this year (in the backfield) and that will help with those hot nights.”

Meanwhile, the Wingers hope their season-opener is a revelation for a team that limped through the 2012 season with a 1-8 record. And with larger numbers, a bigger lineup and weapons across the field, Red Wing hopes to get the season off the right way.

“Our biggest thing will be to execute our offense,” said Wingers’ head coach Matt Schultz. “It’s our first game and their second, so we need to focus on what we can do and get up to the line of scrimmage.”

Playing each other for the first time since 1973, kickoff for Friday’s Red Wing/Ellsworth game is set for 7 p.m. at Fuller-Symes Field in Ellsworth.

With close to 30 members of the Winger football team watching from the stands, the Panthers rushed all over Spooner, with Brandon VanderMarliere gaining 93 yards on 15 carries and Dennis Schutz adding 65 yards on eight attempts. Schutz also was a major factor in the passing game with four receptions for 52 yards.

“Ellsworth had three, four, maybe five running backs that all carried the ball Friday night,” Schultz said. ‘They’re pretty athletic; they all seem to be kind of that linebacker size-type of kid across the board and they all move really well.”

Where Schultz saw a great deal of athleticism for the Panthers was on the defensive side of the ball.

“(Logan Kemmerer), the middle linebacker, (Brodey) Kemmerer, the nose tackle, and No. 12 (Nick Taranto) at cornerback, all three of those kids are very good football players,” Schultz said. “They all can tackle and everyone on that defense gets to the ball well.”

This being Red Wing’s first game of the season, there is more mystery for Austin and the Ellsworth coaching staff on what the Wingers will bring onto the field. 

On tape, Austin, who works in the Red Wing school district and was the Wingers’ defensive coordinator from 1994-95, has been impressed by senior quarterback Isaac Toivonen and 6-foot-3 junior receiver Ben Miller. Add in an offensive line that has three starters over 280 pounds and Red Wing has the counter to Ellsworth’s smaller, more athletic lineup.

“Their quarterback is solid, they have a solid O-line and a couple of good, big receivers,” Austin said. “They look like a pretty good team.”

But the way Austin sees it, Friday’s game is a win-win scenario for the Panthers.

“The kids are excited about the border battle,” Austin said. “If they beat us, well, they were supposed to because they’re the bigger school. If we beat them, it lets us know that we can play with the bigger schools.

“There’s people that work in Red Wing from Ellsworth and vice versa, so it should be a big crowd. Hopefully, it’ll be an exciting football game.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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